sarasvati: (persona phone)
I planned earlier in the week to make baked beans for Daniel, because he really likes them. He's not alone, either; I really like them, and the first time I made them I followed no recipe but for the vague instructions you get by practically having Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series nigh-on memorized.

Doing them differently this time, though. Where I normally add pieces of sausage to the mix (cheap packs of sausages are my friends when I make this stuff), this time Daniel wanted bacon, so bacon we shall have. Not sure how it'll affect the flavour, but here's hoping it'll still be good.

Anyway, by the time I'd filled the casserole dish to go in the oven, I still had way too many boiled beans; I'd put too many on to soak last night! I refuse to waste them, so I've made an impromptu soup. Into the pot with the beans went slices carrots, 1/3 of an onion (chopped, of course), 1.5 tablespoons of freeze-dried garlic pieces, chopped bacon, salt, pepper, a little bit of celery seed, a bay leaf, and some Worcestershire sauce. It smells awesome, and I hope it'll end up tasting just as good, since I've never made anything like this before and didn't bother to check any recipes, instead just throwing things in and judging by taste and smell. Keeping my fingers crossed!

So there's our food right through to Monday, and possibly longer if you count the leftover pea-and-ham soup I made the other day. (Though Daniel informs me that it doesn't microwave very well, which is a shame, but at least it's still edible.)

Total cost of the baked beans and the soup, food which will feed both of us for 3-4 meals each? About $10, I'm guessing. So, somewhere between $1.25 and $1.67 per serving.

And some people say it's too expensive to cook from scratch anymore! I can't find pre-packaged meals that cheap unless they're on sale and heavily discounted, and they're nowhere near as filling, tasty, or healthy as what I just made. Mostly, cooking from scratch costs time, and on Saturdays when Daniel's working and I'm alone in the apartment, I have that to spare. Aside from doing laundry and a little bit of straightening up, I'm not doing anything but reading right now, and most of the time it takes that stuff to cook is time where it can just be left to its own devices while I do other things.

If I'd thought ahead, I'd have made a batch of mint chocolate pinwheel cookies, too, but I only thought of that a moment ago, the oven's now occupied, and Daniel will be home before it'll be free, and I prefer cooking by myself to cooking while somebody else is around. So maybe next time. I don't know when Daniel's next working a Saturday shift, but there's always the chance that he'll be out some night and I can whip up something tasty as a surprise. Like those ham-and-cheese rolls I planned a while ago but never made. Or the sausage that I'm stockpiling bits and pieces of scrap meat for.

Now I wish I had the entire day to myself to spend in the kitchen! But since I don't, I'll just enjoy my remaining alone time and read more of Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
I have been incredibly fortunate this ast week, when it's come to groceries. A supermarket near my connecting bus stop has started a Dollar Sale, wherein many of the products it sells are marked down to $1. I couldn't resists stopping by to at least see what they had on sale, and I have, I must say, made out like a freaking bandit!

I made a point of going after work and only getting a few things at a time, no more than I and Daniel could carry home with us on the bus, so we'd save on cab money even if it took us longer to get everything we wanted. But what we did get still astounds me! I've sent around $100 there between Monday and today and come home with around 15 grocery bags full of stuff.

Smoked pork shoulder for $1 a pound. Pork loin roast for $1 a pound. 2 pork souvlaki stick thingies for $1. 3 bars of Ivory soap for $1. 10 pounds of potatoes for $2. Cartons of Egg Beaters, normally between $4-5 a carton, for $1 each - we ended up buying 8 of those. French fries, pasta, jars of spaghetti sauce, fruit snacks, cake, frozen dinners, bagels, tortillas, cans of soup, tubes of toothpaste, nearly all of it for $1, or else incredibly discounted.

The freezer can't hold any more food right now, and it's nearly all filled with meat. I've wished more than once that we had a chest freezer, because I'd get more pork while it's incredibly cheap, and just store it away for when we need it. The cupboard is about full to bursting. The fridge is the only food storage place with any room left in it, and even then it's a tight squeeze.

$100 has bought us enough food to last us for around a month. I'll be spending a little bit more tomorrow, getting some shampoo (not on sale), and some vegetables (carrots, turnip, parsnips if I can get them), and then this weekend I'll get some dried split peas, but other than that, we're pretty well set for food for a good while. Easily until we can afford another grocery order in 3 weeks time. I'm incredibly happy about being able to find so many good deals on so much food, especially when money has turned out to be a bit tighter for us this month than we'd originally budgeted for. This gives us a little leeway, so we're not feeling the pinch quite so much.
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
This post has been a long time in coming, especially since [personal profile] torachan's post a while ago regarding the view of poor people can't have nice things.

I am poor. There are no two ways about it. I've been steadily unemployed since last September, my EI gives me $36 a week, and Rei has been taking care of the rent and bills more often than I feel comfortable admitting. Even when I had a job and we were making ends meet with some money to spare, we weren't what people would call rich. Our combined income dictates that we live in a not-so-great area of the city in a not-so-great apartment, because we couldn't afford much else.

Recently, I had a bit more money in my bank account than I had anticipated, and since my financial obligations had been taken care of this month, I decided to give myself a little treat in the form of SMT: Strange Journey. I had debated whether or not to get it, using my mother as a sounding board. "I could buy it," I said, "since it isn't that expensive, and I really do want it, but part of me thinks that I should be more responsible and save it instead."

"Yeah," she countered jokingly, "but since when have you ever been responsible with your money?"

This was painful coming from a woman whose debt is over $20000 from a year's worth of personal spending, who stayed in hotels to avoid roommates who didn't wash dishes quickly enough, who would rather wear a t-shirt outside in midwinter in order to look "cool" and then get so sick she'd have to take time off work.

I may not be the most responsible with my money, but I can say with certainty that I'm doing better than she is.

The problem was that it sent me into a guilt spiral. I don't have much money, so any buying of nonessential items just made me seem frivolous and selfish. Why buy a video game when I could, for example, buy groceries instead? True, we didn't need any groceries, but shouldn't I have bought them anyway? It would be more responsible.

Or a chocolate bar. If I find enough loose change in my pocket, should I avoid buying a Twix because I don't have much income?

The answer? No, I shouldn't avoid it. If my obligations are met, then where is the harm in spending some coins on a treat after a bad day? Or a video game that you know will keep you amused for hours! (I wrote an article a few months ago on video games as a frugal form of entertainment, which breaks things down by cost of game and hours of gameplay as well as replay value, which sometimes works out to the cost of video game entertainment being only pennies per hour.)

There is a pervasive attitude that poor people can't have nice things, can't have a few luxuries, and if they do have such things then often others blame them for being poor. That family has luxuries, thus they probably went into debt buying them all and know they're suffering for it.

And sure, for some people, it does happen that way. But not for everyone. But just because a person is on a budget doesn't mean they can't enjoy some new and awesome things now and then. It doesn't mean that they don't deserve the reat of a meal out sometimes. More than people like it admit, it's mostly a matter of knowing how to budget.

Being poor doesn't mean that you have to eat crap. Two whole roasted chickens, some potatoes, carrots, and bread, made for a lot of meals. Chicken breast sandwiches for a few days, and then the bones and skin got boiled for stock, the leftover meat and vegetables added, and there's still soup left over. $30 of food has keep us fed for the better part of a week now. Sure, it's not the best variety, but it's fairly healthy, delicious, and frugal.

I once heard someone say that nobody lives within their means anymore. I disagree. I think that thanks to credit cards, most people live somewhat outside their means, but there are people that know how to make a lot out of a little, and live well for it.

Rei and I now have about 7 new books each thanks to the library's book sale uptown, and 10 more back issues of National Geographic. The grand total for this haul? $16.25. And 1/3 of those books are hardcovers in excellent condition, too. Should we have not bothered getting ourselves good entertainment, despite the fact that everything we bought was a bargain and we had the spare money?

We can have nice things. We can enjoy life. We can be poor and have fun without having a lot of money! And I resent the implication that just because we're poor we should be mopey and drab about it.

As I sit here, Rei is playing Persona 3, and when I'm done messing around online, I'll probably play more of Strange Journey or read one of the books I got yesterday. I may not have much money, and I may desperately need a job in order to take the financial burden from Rei's shoulders, but since losing my job, my lifestyle has not changed much. I'm a little more careful with the food budget and more likely to consider whether or not I reall need some new craft supplies (the answer is no, because I already have an impressive stash of pattern books, fabric, and yarn), but I still read as much, I still play video games as much, and I go out for walks more often. I still enjoy life, and I enjoy my luxuries, and I like to think that perhaps I appreciate my luxuries a bit more than the rich do because I know more of what it's like to go without them. I have lived in "poor guilt" for a while. It sucked. I became a lot happier when I understood that life didn't end just because the cash flow trickled off, and I still had as much happiness as I ever did.

So no more poor guilt. No more spending guilt. No more implications that because I'm poor I clearly must have no idea how to handle my money. I don't deserve it. Nobody does. I'm getting by because I'm learning how to make ends meet on a tight budget. I'm learning to cook, and to cook frugally. I'm learning to appreciate more of the free things in life. I do not need to feel guilty over being happy while still being broke.

Thank you, and good night


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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